About the Books
A group of notable writers–including UK poet laureate Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, Margaret MacMillan, and Jenny Uglow–celebrate our fascination with the houses of famous literary figures, artists, composers, and politicians of the past What can a house tell us about the person who lives there? Do we shape the buildings we live in, or are we formed by the places we call home? And why are we especially fascinated by the houses of the famous and often long-dead? In Lives of Houses, a group of notable biographers, historians, critics, and poets explores these questions and more through fascinating essays on the houses of great writers, artists, composers, and politicians of the past. Editors Kate Kennedy and Hermione Lee are joined by wide-ranging contributors, including Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes, David Cannadine, Roy Foster, Alexandra Harris, Daisy Hay, Margaret MacMillan, Alexander Masters, and Jenny Uglow. We encounter W. H. Auden, living in joyful squalor in New York’s St. Mark’s Place, and W. B. Yeats in his flood-prone tower in the windswept West of Ireland. We meet Benjamin Disraeli, struggling to keep up appearances, and track the lost houses of Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Bowen. We visit Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh, England, and Jean Sibelius at Ainola, Finland. But Lives of Houses also considers those who are unhoused, unwilling or unable to establish a home–from the bewildered poet John Clare wandering the byways of England to the exiled Zimbabwean writer Dambudzo Marechera living on the streets of London. With more than forty illustrations, Lives of Houses illuminates what houses mean to us and how we use them to connect to and think about the past. The result is a fresh and engaging look at house and home.